As some of you who read this blog already know, I've been diagnosed with Stage 3-B esophageal cancer, an aggressive form of the disease. I've undergone chemo and radiation therapies and initially the results seemed spectacularly successful. A nine centimeter tumor seemingly disappeared. Unfortunately, the cancer is back. It's still localized and hasn't spread to any of my vital organs so there's at least a smidgeon of hope, but I'm not making any long-range plans at the moment.
Now I'm not writing this just to get a cheap dose of sympathy. In my lifetime I've dodged a great many life-threatening bullets; a heart attack at age 31, atrial fibrillation, a serious auto accident and now cancer. At some point I was bound to zig when I should have zagged and end up getting hit with the bullet that has my name on it. After all, when you get right down to it, none of us gets out of this life walking to the Promised Land on our own two feet.
The fact that I've survived until almost 70 years of age is pretty much a miracle in and of itself. So I really don't have anything to complain about. But, nevertheless, I think it's incumbent upon me to speak out on the subject of health care. There is no question whatsoever that I've survived as long as I have due to the American health care system. They ARE working miracles out there folks! And as much as the bureaucracy of health care is a pain in the ass, I wouldn't be writing this blog today without it.
That being said, I think it's vitally important to underscore one salient fact. Whenever I've needed it, when the rubber hit the road I had access to the American health care system, pre-existing conditions and all. I don't say this in a purely complimentary way, either. It hasn't always been easy and I've almost slipped through the cracks more times than I care to remember. My survival has had at least as much to do with sheer dumb luck as anything else. And you know what? NOBODY should have to rely on pure dumb luck just to stay alive.
Many's the time I've awakened in the middle of the night, drenched in cold sweat, wondering whether I had any future life ahead of me. Now by some miracle, whenever a health care crisis reared its ugly head, something always turned up to pull my nuts out of the fire. Sad to say, however, for the most part this had seldom happened with government assistance.
Now, I am quick to point out that at this very moment the government IS helping to keep me alive through the good graces of Medicare. It's true that I've paid a lot into the system over the years, but truth be told, I've taken a whole lot MORE out of the system, lucky for myself and my family. But I can tell you this, I don't take health care for granted. And I wonder how many people are out there in the richest country in the world by far, knowing that they or a member of their family is seriously ill, that there is a cure or at least a treatment for what ails them, but that such care is unavailable to them because either they don't have the proper health insurance or they just don't qualify for government assistance.
You can talk all you want to about the need for entitlement reform until you're blue in the face, but until you face a life-threatening health care crisis without any prospect for aid or assistance, then you don't know the sheer terror that the American health care system can represent. This isn't about socialism, communism, the free market system or any other philosophy of government. This is about fundamental humanity. We have to ask ourselves this question. Do we care enough about our fellow human beings to offer a helping hand when lives are on the line? Because, gentle readers, at the end of the day that's what it all comes down to.
I've heard politician wax eloquent about death panels. Well, we have to understand that any health care system that doesn't offer universal health care as a right of citizenship is acting like one gigantic bureaucratic death panel. We have to come to this understanding. Health care is either a right or a privilege. We must choose, knowing full well that there are life and death consequences to be faced. In the end, we will have to live with those consequences, so I hope we choose well!
Filed under: Politics